Week 1, Aboard the good ship Rona
We left our heroes on the good ship "Rona," commanded by Captain Hayes, somewhere in the tropical zone of Earth's southern hemisphere, in the year 1872.
Hayes offers the women a change of clothes. They head off below deck with Hiro, a Japanese crew-member. Hayes then remarks on our weaponry (some swords, some bows and arrows, and a nice derangement of ray guns). Chris says we picked them up in our travels. Hayes asks where we're bound. "Dry land; civilization." Oh, Australia? "No, no! Uh, where ARE we anyway?" (Chris claims we spent a long time outrunning a storm, which is true in a metaphorical way.) We are near the Society Islands, in French Polynesia, headed northwest, in the general direction of Australia, but really headed for Samoa and the Gilberts. Samoa will be fine with us. Maybe we can meet Margaret Mead watching the people come of age.
Hayes asks if we can pay our way. Well, as a matter of fact, some of the party are carrying Hremish gold coins. Hayes looks at the gold ("Funny coins. Russian?" "Could be. We just got them in trade somewhere.") and proposes ten coins -- one for each human in the party and three for our "beast" (Pfusand) who will undoubtedly eat more. Sounds fair. He asks for five now and five when we reach port. He gets it and tells a black hand named Mubato to go below and "clear some berths" for us.
Meanwhile, Hiro has escorted Daewen and Lorelei to the Captain's cabin, where he unpacks several sets of lady's clothing (Victorian, i.e. totally impractical) for their selection. After some simplified English, sign language, and disbelief, he gets them some sailor's clothes, in which they make their reappearance, Daewen with her sword strapped to her back with a belt.
Meanwhile, we are setting up a telepathy net. Tom links to Chris (forming the Human cluster) and to Pfusand. Chris links to Lorelei, who links to Wu, who links to Cantrel (the Deryni cluster). Daewen and Alag also link in (the Elf cluster). We now have enough telepaths in the group to set this up fairly readily, and we are still on edge, not knowing how much we can trust Hayes.
Cantrel and Tom start feeling seasick after this exertion. Wu gives them a little zap to clear it up but Tom died earlier this morning and still feels a bit peaked. He would like to see the berths we've just bought. Mubato leads him below and shows him quite a nice cabin with a largish bed, but "Dis berth be for de ladies." Right. The men get two sailors' berths, medium-sized closets containing two bunks each and a hammock. About this time, Tom discovers the age-old truth that sea-sickness gets worse below than on deck. He goes back up.
Lorelei, when she sees the ladies' cabin (usually used for the current captain's lady, she deduces), searches it carefully for hidden doors and electronic bugs, but the captain appears to conduct his relationships in a straightforward fashion, and not to be a time-traveler.
In fact, he appears to be an honest tramp-trader. We settle down to a two-week cruise to Samoa. We try to make ourselves useful, but the "Rona" has a full crew, so there's not much left to be done. Anyway, Cantrel stays seasick and isn't much use. Alag and Lorelei take knife-throwing lessons from Hiro, who turns out to be exceptionally good at it. Chris teaches Tom telepathic Shield, while Tom in turn teaches Pfusand telepathy. Wu offers Cantrel some magical relief from seasickness in return for telekinesis lessons. (These have to be conducted on the sly, lest we startle the good captain and crew.)
Five days into the trip, one of the sailors, one Ratbag, must have gotten fresh with Daewen. We hear a loud, "I said NO," and Ratbag is up in the rigging, wondering exactly how he got there.
A week into our voyage, we sight a big, sloppy-looking ship with both masts and smoke-stacks. The "Rona" flees from it. Hayes explains it was a Spaniard. "They think they own the whole ocean. 'Course, so do the English."
A little later, a sailor named Rhys approaches Lorelei -- very politely after seeing Ratbag's experience. Lorelei is polite but doesn't feel in the mood for a shipboard romance, especially in view of 19th-century sanitation. So she suggests that Rhys has a headache. Since she's Deryni, he does.
In the second week, Daewen and Alag get antsy and start exercising in the rigging, much to the bemusement of the crew. (Not that the elves get in the way -- they're too deft for that.) Also, Tom is now recovered and starts singing sea chanteys to and with Daewen. She's much better at it and, to drown him out, puts on a full-blown, elven-glamour-enriched performance that leaves the crew speechless. (Tom too, fortunately.)
There is one elderly crewman who was below decks when we boarded. Just as well, or we would have thought twice about these people being pirates. He has a "peg" leg made from the leg bones of a much larger man, embellished with a sawed-off skull used as a knee-cap. Chris asks him about this repellent prosthesis and learns that he first lost his own leg some years ago, then had occasion to fight a larger man to the death; he cut the leg off his own victim in the fight and hit on the idea for the bone-leg. It was made for him by someone in Samoa, who threw in the skull as an afterthought. (Is it too late to change course for Australia? I suppose so.)
After the two weeks, as we finally sail into the Samoan port, Hiro perches in the crow's nest and reports that Benjamin Pease is in harbor. Hayes curses richly and instructs Mr. Blake (the first mate) to distribute the small arms just in case. He then suggests to Blake that maybe it is time they got rid of Ben Pease for good and all. Blake agrees. Hayes explains to the party that he and Ben Pease used to be partners but had a falling out and have been mortal enemies ever since.
The party makes vague noises about helping (after all, we owe Hayes our lives), so Hayes invites Chris and Tom down into his cabin along with Blake and Hiro, to scheme. Chris and Tom promptly set up the telepathy net, so the rest of the party is as good as there.
Hayes feels it is hopeless to sneak in, so they will come in showy. The men will head for the cathouses, but not linger more than ten minutes. They will then meet with Hayes at O'Shaughnesey's bar, where Hayes will have been making inquiries after Pease. Hiro will go check out the warehouses. Ratbag will go check out the shops. These two will report to Hayes just before the men should arrive. Then the rumble can start. With our party helping, "we'll out-number them one to two" in their favor. This is obviously some old meaning of "out-number" that we aren't familiar with.
Tom wishes to know just how "mortal" a mortal enemy Pease is. Do we really fight to the death? Yes. Hayes explains that he and Pease once had a duel over a woman. Hayes shot Pease but, rather unfortunately, didn't kill him; he accidentally shot his balls off. And Hayes' great shouts of laughter made it hard for Pease to believe it was accidental. Yes, that sounds pretty mortal all right....
Hayes asks our party to show up about the same time as his men. (Though he doesn't know it, Chris will be flying about invisibly on a flying belt, keeping telepathic tabs through Tom.)
So we dock and Hayes' men disperse. Hayes goes straight to O'Shaughnesey's. Chris quietly lofts a few minutes later and the rest of us set out. We "tether" the Naza outside the bar and enter. A few seconds after we do, Hayes grabs the barkeep by the shirt and roars, "Where's Ben Pease?!" Before the poor man can answer, he is shot between the eyes by a man on a balcony overlooking the bar hall. Hayes shoots the assassin and that is where we leave the action for this week.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.